REVIEW: Derek Kortepeter – Cataclysm (2016)

For Aaron’s review at the KMA, click here!

cataclysm-coverDEREK KORTEPETER – Cataclysm (2016)

We live in uncomfortable times, and Cataclysm is an uncomfortable album.  In the liner notes, Derek explains that he wanted to do an album reflective of the current political and social climate.  Far reaching issues like mass surveillance and personal trauma.  The importance of the message, says Derek, necessitated vocals.

Derek’s an experimental artist that skips gleefully from genre to genre.  The first track here “We Are a Lie” begins life as a spacey ambient synth piece, before abrasive layers of guitars assault the sense.  Derek moans of painful things in what sounds like possibly the largest echo chamber in the state of California.  No prisoners are taken.  Derek doesn’t pander or make his music easy to listen to.  You have to work for it.

The thought police are on the patrol on the ambient second track “They Tell Us”.  Derek mentions Radiohead and Nine Inch Nails as two major influences, and you can hear that on “They Tell Us”, sort of a morph of the two bands.  “The thought police tell us we’re safe,” but I don’t think Derek believes them.  On “Outcome”, the drums are in the echo chamber too, but it’s stuttery tremolo guitar that I dig.  That’s how you have to listen to this album.  Find a hook to grab onto, and hang on!

The album is most successful in its ambient synth moments.  These are truly beautiful, but I suppose it the contrast between this beauty and the harsh guitars that is part of Derek’s message.  On “My Life” he says “I’m controversial, hypocritical.”  Then there’s the powerful “Do Not Question”, a seriously emotional collage of historic sound bites.  “Every nation has to be either with us, or against us” says Hillary Clinton.  “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds” — Robert Oppenheimer.  Heavy shit.  This merges into “It’s All the Same” an angry rant with an industrial backing track.  Continuing the contrasts, “For the Fall” reeks of punk rock with a hint of metal guitars.

Best track:  “Respite” which is exactly that.  It’s similar in style and function to “A Warm Place” from Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral.  A similar track is the beautiful “Nuclear Winter”.

The album will be available via indiepush.  If you want to support a daring young artist, this might be the album to buy.  It’s sincere and the most direct album that Derek has made to date.

4/5 stars

But it at bandcamp:  https://derekkortepeter.bandcamp.com/releases


REVIEW: Derek Kortepeter – Stochastic (2014)

stochasticDEREK KORTEPETER – Stochastic (2014)

A short while ago, I reviewed the debut EP Compilation Vol. 1 by UCLA musician Derek Kortepeter. Since then Derek has put the finishing touches on his first full-length album Stochastic, an even more experimental collection.

Music like this is difficult for me to review as it’s pretty far out from the mainstream. Take the opening track, “Veritas”. The first 45 seconds are the sounds of guitar scrapes and echos, before the grand chords commence. As an opening track, this is both a welcome and a warning: It says, “If you find me intriguing, dive in! But if this is not much more than noise to you, farewell!” Not everybody is going to get music like this.

“Veritas” flows seamlessly into “Burning Embers” which uses backwards guitar as a melodic hook. Heavy, noisy guitars and drums soon flood the speakers. It’s difficult to grasp at the rhythm, but Derek does not make music that does not challenge him. Just listen. Allow the music to seep in, and you will begin to pick up on the melodies and rhythms within. It’s there in the contrasting guitars and keys. At this point I’ll mention that Derek plays all the instruments on Stochastic himself.

“Illusions” plays with odd drum rhythms and mixes guitars with synths into an atmospheric whole. I couldn’t tell you what effects he’s using on his guitar but it sounds cool to me. There’s lots of echo and bluesy playing on “Solitary”. I find that there is plenty to love here, you just have to really listen and let it happen. In particular, even though this isn’t a “guitar album”, I was drawn to that instrument.

“Fusion” is a favourite track of mine. This is a jazzy, upbeat mellow tune with a tropical feel. The piano is a key instrument here, while Derek noodles cool jazzy licks on his six string. Elsewhere (like on “Glitch”), I hear elements of Steve Vai’s fearlessness and playfulness. Steve Vai once said, “Sorry folks, I can’t help myself,” in regards to his experimentation. I think Derek can probably relate.

Another moment I really enjoyed is a multitracked cacophony of guitar and drums in “Solar Wind”. But it’s not just noise. It’s easy to see how somebody could hear it as noise, but there’s a lot going on here. (I can’t tell you exactly what is going on, but trust me, it’s happening.  It’s very dense.) Then it goes sparse, with only one guitar, which throws you a bit (in a good way).

Finally I’ll quote Derek from his own website, because I think what he says hits the nail on the head:

“Many records, when they find their groove, bring the listener to a certain element of familiarity. This LP is quite the opposite of that. I want you to react, to think, to be moved, to be jarred, to be confused, and ultimately form an opinion on what it is that you are hearing. Whatever the “Stochastic” system determines for your mind, I can promise that it will be a unique result. This result will not be repeated in the consciousness of another human being listening to the same songs.”

Stochastic by Derek Kortepeter is available at CD Baby, iTunes, and beyond.

4/5 stars